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Date [ 2014-08-01, 04:48 ]

Will Penangites now be willing to pay for the monorail?

(Kuala Lumpur=Koreanpress) Liew Lai Keen = According to a study in the Pertanika Journal of Social Sciences & Humanities, those who are into recycling, those with car park problems at work or who have used urban rail transport systems elsewhere are more willing to pay for monorail services in Penang, Malaysia.

The problem of easy public transport has come to a head because of the island’s rapid development. This is due to the rise of greater job opportunities in Penang where the free trade zone in Bayan Lepas posed as a centre to cluster all the labour-intensive manufacturing industries. There are currently over 200 multinational companies based here. Second, Penang ranks as the eighth most livable city in Asia, with a very good standard of living. For these reasons, many people migrate to Penang.

As a result the demand for private vehicles in Penang increases in tandem which eventually results in the rise of serious traffic congestion, especially during office rush hours. T h e r e a r e now approximately 2.21 million registered vehicles in Penang with a large proportion of them being private owned vehicles.

Penang with its limited land area, cannot afford to have the third most number of newly registered vehicles in Malaysia. Besides, it is noteworthy that there is currently a lack of public transportation in Penang due to a huge increase in travel demand.

By 2030, it is estimated that travel demand will increase in this Malaysian state by 25 – 50%. This has prompted the view that if the authorities can improve the public transportation system in Penang, the proposed third link between the island and mainland would not be necessary.

In view of Penang's traffic woes, its state government has proposed building a monorail system to alleviate congestion.A study has then been conducted, by Y. K. Cheah of Universiti Utara Malaysia and L. Y. Lee of Universiti Sains Malaysia on the views of the island’s residences. They surveyed a total of 498 respondents, of whom 424 (85%) said they were willing to pay an average of RM 2 for a monorail trip to travel to work, while 74 (15%) were not willing. This is equivalent to what Kuala Lumpur monorail travellers are also paying.

By contrast, other variables like age, gender, ethnicity, income, education and personal perspectives on Malaysia's public transportation system are not significantly associated with people's willingness-to-pay for monorail services.

The purpose of this research was to identify which factors affect an individual’s willingness-to-pay for monorail service as an alternative transportation option. Based on their findings, the authors proposed various measures to further increase willingness-to-pay for monorail services, including environmental awareness programmes on the risks of excessive carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and public information campaigns to promote the benefits of monorails.

Moreover, based on the economic interventions to discourage people from using private owned vehicle, the state government should consider imposing heavy parking fines in areas where there is a lot of illegal car parking. The government can thus use this collected revenue to further subside the public transportation system.

Due to budget, time and geographical constraints, the survey data was limited to adults who work in the Bayan Lepas area of Penang. The authors therefore recommend surveying people who travel to or from work throughout Penang Island and the mainland in order to obtain a more representative sample. In addition, “students and pensioners should also be examined for their travel patterns and preferences.”

On the whole, it looks like Penang’s citizens are ready for a monorail.


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